Lettuce-nibbling veggies menace Mother Earth

'Three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon'

There goes the planet. Image: Shutterstock

In most agreeable news for those of us who prefer wrapping our laughing gear round a solid bacon sarnie to nibbling a light salad, US boffins have concluded that switching to a vegetarian diet might actually increase "energy use, water use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions".

That's according to a team from Carnegie Mellon University, who cast a critical eye over the 2010 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines "intended to help individuals achieve and maintain healthy weight".

Shockingly, the uni's Paul Fischbeck, Michelle Tom and Chris Hendrickson found that the USDA advice "to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie".

Specifically, this diet increased energy use by 38 per cent, water use by 10 per cent and GHG emissions by six per cent.

Fischbeck told Phys.org: "Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon. Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken."

A viable alternative to switching diet is sticking to the same nosh and simply filling your face less, which "has a positive effect on the environment and reduces energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately nine per cent".

So, the findings suggest that it is in fact the L component of the BLT sandwich, rather than the B, which is doing the most damage, at least to Mother Earth. However, regarding human health, recent work on bacon has suggested simply being in same room as a few rashers can prove fatal.

The scientists' research is published in Environment Systems and Decisions (abstract here). ®

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Thanks to David Bridwell for the tip-off.

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